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Three Questions: What to Make of the Red Wings Heading into February

January 31st, 2013 at 4:08 PM
By Frank Vajcner

1. Q: Is the 3-2-1 start better, worse, or about what was expected of the Detroit Red Wings?

A: A case could be made either way, but it's about what was expected for a start, maybe a little better than what most expected. This is a team that could be 5-1 right now, or they could be 2-4. The Red Wings have gotten exponentially better since the opening debacle in St. Louis, but there are still areas that need improvement (more on that later).

Mike Babcock's decision to split up Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk has paid off so far, and the return of Todd Bertuzzi has helped. Damien Brunner has had the hot hand lately with three goals to lead the team in that department. Throw in Valtteri Filppula coming off of a two goal game against the Stars, and the Wings are getting their top two lines up to the caliber where they should be. As soon as Darren Helm (back) and Mikael Samuelsson (groin) return from injuries, Babcock will be able to roll out three lines with plenty of offensive firepower.

So in conclusion, a 3-2-1 start is about the same, if not better, than what was expected. Hopefully they will be able to clean up the mistakes and build on the strong points in February.

2. Q: What needs to be done to fix the special teams?

A: On paper, the Wings have been a special teams disaster, ranking 28th on the power play (9.4 %) and 22nd on the penalty kill (73.3 %). The penalty kill is skewed by the St. Louis game, but it has gotten better and better. Helm's return will provide a boost to the penalty kill.

As for the power play, the solution is simple: SHOOT THE PUCK!!!!!!!! The Wings have been too patient with passing the puck around constantly with a man advantage trying to showboat (for lack of a better word), but need to take more shots at the net. Creating traffic in front of the net has also been an area of improvement, as Johan Franzen and Bertuzzi are using their size to screen the opposing goaltender.

In other words, they need to be a blue collar puck shooting team instead of a pretty boy fun and gun team.

3. Q: Is Jordin Tootoo the second coming of Bob Probert?

A; A lot of the older fans will remember Probert as, for lack of better words, a crazy SOB both on and off the ice. Like Probert, Tootoo has shown the agitator side in him with three fights through the first six games. However, Tootoo doesn't have the off-ice baggage that Probert had.

So if you want to compare Tootoo to a former Red Wings' tough guy, he's probably closer to the Joe Kocur type.

Tags: Bob Probert, Damien Brunner, Darren Helm, Detroit, Detroit Red Wings, Hockey, Joe Kocur, Johan Franzen, Jordin Tootoo, NHL, Pavel Datsyuk, Todd Bertuzzi, Valtteri Filppula

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